When Erik first begins working as an architect on the Paris Opera House, he hires an apprentice by the name of Dominick. The boy is young and small and no one else wants to hire him, but Erik knows what it’s like to be unwanted, so he takes him under his wing. In the course of time, Erik has an occasion to visit Dominick’s family, and, even though he's 28 years old by then, he's moved to tears by what he sees. Dominick is the eldest in a family with nine children who have no beds or mattresses and barely any blankets. The father, Lapierre, is the only one with a small cot to sleep in and work in. Even the mother, Geanne, sleeps on the floor beside her husband. They all live in a small, one-bedroom home in a poor neighborhood on the outskirts of Paris.
At one time, they lived in a large home in a nice neighborhood. That was when Lapierre worked for the railroad and made a good living, but an accident nearly killed him and left him paralyzed from the waist down. As a result, they had to sell their home to pay for the medical bills. Lapierre learned how to carve the likeness of animals, paint them, and sell them to help support his large family. Geanne takes in washing and ironing to help her family. All in the family work hard in whatever way they can. Some gather wood from the forest for their father to carve his creations and then take the finished product to the train station to sell to tourist. Some work in the garden to grow food. Some help their mother with the washing and ironing.
Watching them touches Erik’s heart, and he wants to help them. So, with Oded’s help, they build more rooms and furniture so all in the family will have a bed and proper bedding. The family doesn’t have money to pay for all that Erik did for them, and Erik wouldn’t take money from them anyway. Therefore, Lapierre does the only thing he can do. The following is what happened next. Erik and Dominick are working on the opera house when Dominick asks Erik a question. Read more and disccover how Erik's answer let to a special payment.
“Erik, did you ever have a special pet?”
I smiled, and without telling him I didn’t have a normal childhood with pets and toys, I told him the closest thing I could.
“I once had a very special horse that was my closest friend. Her name was Molly, and she played with me the same as a dog would. I’ve also had my music that I consider a friend.”
We talked about his dog and Molly and music for a while longer, and then I didn’t give it further consideration. Eight weeks later, Oded and I were invited over to their home for dinner, and it was then that I understood the reason for his question. Dominick had told them about my love for music and they asked me to bring my violin and play for them. Naturally, I couldn’t refuse a chance to play my music for others, so I accepted.
The meal was a modest and yet delicious one, and once the children helped to clean up and to rekindle the fire, I was asked to play. Considering I was performing mostly for young ones, I chose lively pieces I’d learned from the gypsies. The children danced, and I taught them some simple lyrics, and we all had a good time.
The evening was drawing to a close when Lapierre took a more serious tone.
“I want both you and Oded to know how thankful we all are for everything you’ve done for us. The children are healthier since they have warm beds to sleep in. And,” he said as he took Geanne’s hand and smiled, “it’s a precious gift to sleep next to my wife again. Thank you for being so persistent.”
“It’s been my pleasure, Lapierre. I thank you for allowing me into your home.”
I was ready to express more when Brie and Desiree, with large smiles on their faces, came around the corner. They had a bundled up blanket in their arms, which they set on my lap, and then they jumped up and down.
“Open it, Erik! Open it!”
I smiled at them and then removed the blanket from the heavy object inside. As I did, my smile left my lips and my heart both raced and ached at the same time. It was a nearly full-sized bust of Molly carved out of wood. I looked at Lapierre as my jaw dropped in surprise, and then I looked back at his creation.
He’d matched her red coat, black mane, and playful expression perfectly. His work was so detailed that the veins in her jaw and neck were visible. Her ears were alert and her nostrils flared, just as they so often were. But the feature that intrigued me the most was the look in her warm, brown eyes. It was the same playful expression she’d have when she ran from me, with the white rag dangling from her mouth. He’d never seen her, so how he managed to capture that special look I couldn’t begin to imagine, but he did.
I ran my hand over her nose and looked into her spirited eyes—as mine filled with tears.
It didn’t matter how hard my aching jaw clenched, my feelings moved on without permission, leaving me with the daunting task of trying to conceal them. I simply couldn’t let everyone witness a grown man weeping over a piece of wood. I missed Molly so much, and the only way I could ease the pain was not to think about her. But the unexpected likeness of her resting on my lap was so real that I was moved beyond control.
I lowered my head, pretending to study Lapierre’s work closely. “Thank you, Lapierre. I know how long it takes you to make a statue a fraction of this size, so I can only imagine how long this must have taken you. You couldn’t have given me anything of more value.” I kept talking, hoping no one would notice my tears soaking into my mask, as they were so accustomed to do. Once I could, I raised my head. “How did you make her so real? She looks exactly like my Molly.”
He pointed toward the other end of the room where Oded sat, wearing a rather sheepish grin. “I was sworn to secrecy, Erik. All I did was answer questions. It was all their idea.”
“Remember that conversation we had about your favorite pet?” Dominick asked. I nodded, and he continued. “My father had asked me to find out all I could about it.”
Then Lapierre chimed in. “I don’t have money, but I always have lots of wood, and I felt a need to do something for you. You’ve done so much for us.”
“But how did you get it to look so much like her? You’ve never seen her.”
“Well, Oded did much more than simply answer my questions. He guided my knife,” Lapierre explained. “He’s been working with me for weeks on this. He brought Libre for me to study. He said she had the closest playful expression. I first drew her head on paper, and then Oded kept suggesting what needed to be changed for it to look like your mare. He was insistent that she had to have a special look in her eyes or it wouldn’t be your horse.”
I looked at Oded, and he shrugged his shoulders while I acknowledged, “Yes, he knows me well.”
“Once the drawing was completed,” Lapierre went on, “I began carving the wood, and he continued to guide my hand until he was satisfied.”
“I hardly know how to express my appreciation. I fear any words I choose right now would be inadequate,” I said in all sincerity.
“Your expression says it all, Erik,” Geanne responded softly. “No words are needed.”
After many expressions of appreciation from all in the room, Oded and I headed home in reflective silence. My thoughts were on Persia and beyond, to all the years I’d spent with only Molly by my side. As I looked at the nearly full moon, I smiled, since any memories of her would always include laughter—and tears.
I believe Oded was allowing me time to spend in private and silent reflections, or perhaps he was lost in his own thoughts. Whatever the case, that gift opened up buried memories. As I stroked her nose, I thought, what a fitting object to be the first piece of art in my new home. My new home, I mused, as visions of it swirled around in my head. The result? That creation, made with love, would one day sit on a pedestal beside my baby grand. Molly deserved a prominent position in my home.